December 30, 2018

Five Directives For A Successful New Year

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: New Year Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:10–24

Five Directives For A Successful New Year

1 Corinthians 16:13–14
Sunday, December 30, 2018
Pastor Randy Smith


Hope all of you had a wonderful 2018. As we are winding down the final days of 2018, this morning I would like to take a look at the final verses of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. I am calling this sermon: “Five Directives for a Successful New Year.”

The majority of 1 Corinthians through chapter 14 deals with poor Christian conduct. This church had problems in the areas of unity, marriage, sexual morality, Christian liberty, and the use of their spiritual gifts. Chapter 15 deals with poor theology. There, Paul spends 58 verses confronting their incorrect beliefs concerning the resurrection of their bodies. Now as the epistle concludes, the Apostle sends his closing farewell in chapter 16.

In that chapter are two verses that have always made a memorable impact on my life. They are Paul’s final words, the ones he wanted to stick in this church’s mind. Some have called them a summary of the entire letter. These five imperatives fired off in rapid succession in these two verses present the positive side of how Paul wanted this church to conduct themselves going forward.

These five succinct statements are found in verses 13 and 14. “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:13-14). Let’s take them as exhortations going into 2019. I’d like to explain these imperatives this morning using the surrounding material to illustrate them.

1. Be On The Alert – Stephanas, Fortunatus,Achaicus

First, the church was commanded to “be on the alert.” Specifically we can say they, as we, were to be watchful, awake and vigilant. We learned in Luke that our adversary is seeking to numb our minds to the demands of victorious Christian living. And one of those deceptive ways is to convince us that we are not really in a spiritual battle to dull our alertness. That’s why the Apostle Peter said, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert [same thing said in 1 Corinthians]. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

So rather than allowing our minds and hearts to drift away, we must be alert on a daily basis to that which threatens our faith. e must be alert to temptation, alert to false teaching, alert to sinful living and worldly temptations, alert to spiritual backsliding. Furthermore, we must be alert to the needs around us, alert to the cries of our family, the pain of the church and the fate of those without Christ. Jesus Christ has given us spiritual life (Jn. 10:10). We should act like it!

The church of Sardis is a negative example of this concept. They were located in a very wealthy city. There is no record of heavy persecution or false teaching from without, but still this church teetered on the brink of spiritual disaster. Their troubles stemmed from a sheltered and pampered existence. Simply put: they became slack and are eternally identified amongst the other churches in Revelation 2 and 3 as the “dead church.”

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you” (Rev. 3:1-3).

They were given to complacency and mediocrity. They appeared to be “alive,” maybe bustling with all kinds of activity, but in the Lord’s eyes, they were spiritually “dead.” They were, as Keith Green sang, “asleep in the light.” And the warning from our Lord is to “wake up,” lest He comes “like a thief” and “remove[s] [their] lampstand” (Rev. 2:5) and no longer considers them a church He will use.

The call for alertness is throughout Paul’s epistles. To the Romans, Paul said, “It is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep” (Rom. 13:11). To the Thessalonians, Paul said, “So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thes. 5:6). To the Ephesians, Paul said, “Therefore be on the alert” (Ac. 20:31). Based on the repetition, this is obviously a weakness among the people of God. Even the Apostles were not exempt. To them our Lord said, “What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert’” (Mk. 13:37)! “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mk. 14:38)

A positive example of alertness is three men mentioned here in 1 Corinthians 16, verses 17 and 18: Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus. These three men left Corinth and went to visit Paul in Ephesus. It is believed they brought him the “letter of concerns” from the Corinthian church, issues that he addressed in chapters 7-16 prefaced by the “now concerning” statements (7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1, 12). They were alert to the problems in their home church and risked their lives to get a response from the Apostle. Most likely they even carried Paul’s letter “First Corinthians” (written from Ephesus) back to Corinth.

They were alert to the needs of the church. Furthermore, they were alert to the needs of Paul himself, a spiritual giant, but a man susceptible to pain no different than us. They came to Paul and ministered to him through friendship, support and encouragement. In verse 17 Paul said that he “rejoiced over [their] coming…because they have supplied what was lacking on your part.” Paul dearly missed the Corinthians, but these three alert to his need came as representatives on behalf of the whole church to bring comfort. That is why he could say in verse 18, “For they have refreshed my spirit [in coming to me] and yours [in knowing that I am being comforted]. Therefore acknowledge such men.”

Be alert, says Paul, to all who are alert to spiritual needs. And when you find these unselfish and sacrificial souls, bestow upon them great honor and acknowledgment for their service and example to the flock.

2. Stand Firm In The Faith – Apollos

The second imperative in verse 13 says we are to “stand firm in the faith.” From being alert, we are to stand firm. We are to be “steadfast” and “immovable” (15:58).

There’s not much standing firm in the church today, and much of the waffling and wavering in the church comes from the relativism that has crept into our culture. Most in the world and even many in the church have no problem standing firm in their faith. To them, what they believe is right. Regardless of where it came from, few are without opinion pertaining to their faith. They are sad, but rather fascinating conversations when you get people going on their beliefs regarding God, Jesus Christ, eternity and the Bible. Most are convinced they are dead right. Oh they may be standing firm, but they are standing firm in their own concocted faith. Specifically verse 13 says we are to stand firm not in our faith but in “the faith.”

“The faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3; cf. Phil. 4:1; 1 Thes. 3:8; 2 Thes. 2:15; 1 Pet. 5:12). The faith, the objective content of our belief spelled out for us through divine revelation. The faith contained in the inerrant, inspired and authoritative Word of God. This is where our faith must be rooted. And this is where our faith will be attacked. So adherence to the Scriptures is where we must stand firm in the faith.

Paul told the Ephesian church, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). Just as Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan to deny biblical truth (Mt. 4, Lk. 4), Satan still fires his darts in this area in an effort to see us deny, compromise and disbelieve Scripture. That is why three times in four verses in this letter to the Ephesian church, Paul told them to “stand firm” against the schemes of the devil (Eph. 6:11-14).

There have been many individuals since the advent of Christianity that had this “no compromise” mentality to stand firm in the truth of Scripture even to the potential expense of their lives.

How about Martin Luther, the great Reformer, when asked to reject his work and the so-called errors they contained? Luther’s memorable words, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen” (Luther’s defense at the Diet of Worms).

Another man that comes to mind is the biblical figure, Apollos. Apollos was first introduced to us in Acts 18. He was described as one “mighty in the Scriptures” (Ac. 18:24). He was “fervent in spirit (and)…speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus” (Ac. 18:25). This man stood firm. He had a solid foundation in the Word of God. The Bible says, “He began to speak out boldly in the synagogue” (Ac. 18:26), no task for the fainthearted or gullible. He confronted the error of Jewish thought that easily could have resulted in verbal and physical mistreatment. He was willing to take a stand, as He stood firm on the truth of Scripture. The Bible says, “When he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Ac. 18:27-28).

While in Achaia, the Corinthian church was introduced to Apollos (see Ac. 19:1). Based upon his eloquence (Ac. 18:24) and His ability with the Scriptures, the Corinthians actually began to idolize the man to the point that he gained a following in the church causing schisms and factions. Remember chapter 3? “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one” (1 Cor. 3:4-5; cf. 1:12).

Apollos is again mentioned in chapter 16, verse 12. “But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity.”

Obviously there was some expectation regarding Apollos’ visit to Corinth so why did he seek to postpone his trip? Was it because he did not want to cater to the faction upholding his name? Was it because he, like Paul, had an open door for ministry in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8-9)? Whatever the case, he would go when the Lord led him. The man stood firm in his convictions as he stood firm in the Word of God. He was a man of his word because he was a man of the Word without compromise – standing firm!

3. Act Like Men – Timothy

Third, verse 13 calls us to “act like men.” This universal command might not appear too attractive to the women, but interpreting it solely in the masculine realm misses the point. (Paul definitely wanted women to “act like women” – see 1 Cor. 11:2-16). Therefore it is best to view this imperative as a call to take a stand or as the New Living Translation put it: “Be courageous.”

Being a Christian is no place for the cowardly and timid, contrary to the world’s definition that defines a person of faith as a weakling. We are to go against the culture. Paul set a tremendous example of boldness for this church, and he was calling the Corinthians to the same (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1). Consider the specific issues that plagued this church.

When our marriage is failing and we feeling like bailing, “be a man” and persevere (chapter 7). When there are unchecked sins in the church, “be a man” and confront those individuals (chapter 5). When we live in an age that any belief goes, “be a man” and study the Scriptures to ensure a correct theology (chapter 15; cf. 1 Cor. 14:20). When we are part of a church division, “be a man” and take the first step toward reconciliation (chapter 1). When we have to choose between pleasing man and pleasing God, “be a man” and do the right thing despite the persecution (chapter 4). When we feel like standing idle in the dugout, “be a man” and step up to the plate of service (chapter 12). When we feel like being a spiritual baby all our lives, “be a man” and mature in respect to your salvation (chapter 3; cf. 1 Cor. 13:11).

These statements go against the grain of our natural inclinations. So if we are to succeed in this area, we must desperately rely upon a source that is beyond us that works through us: Specifically, God’s grace.

Timothy is a man often noted in the Bible as one who struggled with timidity (1 Tim. 4:12; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2:3). Therefore Paul told his young spiritual son, “(Timothy), be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Ti. 2:1; cf. Lk. 2:40).

You can see that Timothy again surfaces in chapter 16, verses 10 and 11. Paul notifies the church that he is planning to come, but quickly adds three directives regarding his arrival. “See that he is with you without cause to be afraid” (1 Cor. 16:10). “Let no one despise him” (1 Cor. 16:11). “Send him on his way in peace” (1 Cor. 16:11).

Possibly Timothy did have a problem with timidly, but we see countless examples of how he sought to overcome his fears that are often overlooked by many students of the Bible. Let’s not forget that Timothy was going to Corinth to remind the church of Paul’s ways (1 Cor. 4:17). Remember, they didn’t think too highly of the Apostle. Let’s not forget that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to pastor that church (1 Tim. 1:3). Remember, that wasn’t exactly the most spiritual city in the world. Let’s not forget that Timothy, as an older man, was circumcised just to be more winsome as he ministered to the Jews (Ac. 16:3). Remember how many of us were afraid to give our public testimony when we entered the waters of baptism? Let’s not forget that Timothy was from the town of Lystra (Ac. 16:1). Remember that was the same city Paul was stoned and left for dead (Ac. 14:19), but Timothy still left his home to travel with Paul (Ac. 16:3).

I believe God is brought great glory when someone who lacks natural courage is prepared to leave his or her comfort zone and serve the Lord in an area that requires great boldness. Oh how the grace of God is put in display in such situations. In verse 10, Paul said Timothy was “doing the Lord’s work.” If the Lord can use a Timothy, a person who struggled with timidity, is it too difficult for Him to use you?

Be a man. Be courageous. Do the right thing through the strength God supplies!

4. Be Strong – Stephanas

The fourth imperative, still in verse 13, says to “be strong.” This point is very similar to our last one, but I think it is more fundamental and deals with our personal relationship with the Lord.

When we are called to be strong, we are not talking about physical strength, but spiritual power. And that spiritual power comes when we abide in Christ and depend solely on Him. Ephesians 6:10, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”

Ironically we will never be strong until we see our own weakness. It is only when we forsake our self-reliance, self-will and self-esteem that we will turn to the Lord for the strength He supplies (Col. 1:10; 1 Pet. 4:11). Or as Paul put it, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10; cf. 1 Cor. 1:27; 4:10; 2 Cor. 13:9).

Here we are talking about the strength we need to function as victorious Christians to obtain all joy, peace and confidence in the Lord, to stand firm and act like men.

A great example of this was the “household of Stephanas” mentioned in verse 15 (cf. 1 Cor. 1:16). The text says they “devoted themselves for ministry to the saints.” What a tremendous testimony of this man’s family! They devoted themselves for the ministry to the saints! They went to the Lord for strength, and it overflowed in a life of devotion to God’s people.

How do I know it was done in the Lord’s strength? If you need to ask that question it means you have never ministered to others with selfless devotion. Possibly the hardest call for us as believers is to give ourselves to the cause of others (Phil. 2:3-4). Unless you are relying on the Lord’s strength, you will never bear their heavy burdens, serve selflessly and continue when they let you down.

Because of their faithfulness to this high calling, Paul tells the church in verse 16, “Be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors.” As they submit to Christ, you submit to them. These people are to be honored, encouraged and held out as examples for others in the church to follow.

5. Let All That You Do Be Done In Love – Aquila and Prisca

We are to be on the alert. When we are alert we will stand firm in the faith. To stand firm in the faith we must act like men and be strong. But finally, verse 14, we must let all that we do be done in love. While the other four imperatives shared a verse, this one gets a verse all to itself. This one is the most essential and a caveat to the four imperatives that precede it.

Considering the other imperatives, I like the way John MacArthur summarized the final command to love: “Love compliments and balances everything else. It is the beautiful, softening principle. It keeps our firmness from becoming hardness and our strength from becoming domineering. It keeps our maturity gentle and considerate. It keeps our right doctrine from becoming obstinate dogmatism and our right living from becoming smug self-righteousness” (1 Corinthians, p. 476).

We can appear to do all that we just said correctly, but as Paul told this church in chapter 13, without love we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:2-3) because love is the “more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31). Love is the solution to all the problems this selfish Corinthian church faced because love “does not seek its own” (1 Cor. 13:5).

The individuals we have examined this morning are marked first and foremost for the love that they demonstrated for others (1 Jn. 4:7), especially those within the church. Aquila and Prisca (Priscilla), mentioned in verse 19 are another prime example.

This committed couple is often mentioned in Scripture, always in a positive light. They provided housing for Paul (Ac. 18:3). They traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys (Ac. 18:18-19). They explained to the mighty Apollos the way of God more accurately (Ac. 18:26). They also hosted a church in their home (the standard meeting place for the first three centuries). In verse 19 we read, “Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house” (cf. Rom. 16:5). In Romans Paul called them “my fellow workers” (Rom. 16:3) “who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” (Rom. 16:4). This couple had a great love for the Lord and it showed in the way they had great love for others (cf. 2 Cor. 8:5).

Why do we love? Because the Lord first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). How do we love? Abide in Him and allow the Holy Spirit to work the love of Christ through us (Gal. 5:22). Who do we love? We love God first. As we read in verse 22, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.” We love others second. As Paul said in verse 24, “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” Loving the Lord and loving others – aren’t these the two greatest commandments outlined by our Savior (Mt. 22:37-39)?

As verse 14 teaches us, and this verse was really pressed upon my heart this week, “Let all that you do be done in love.”

I hope this sermon serves as a fitting conclusion to the year 2018 and a blessed encouragement for us to apply five key principles as they were manifested by five key sets of individuals in 2019. Yet our ultimate example is Jesus Christ. May we look to His example of alertness, steadfastness, courage, strength and love and by His grace seek to walk in His footsteps.


other sermons in this series

Jan 1


To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain

Preacher: Craig Baxter Scripture: Philippians 1:19–26 Series: New Year

Jan 1


Old Necessities for a New Year

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:16–19 Series: New Year